Tivoli Theatre and District 8 facing potential closures

Francis' Street's Tivoli Theatre - photo by Dan Grennan

Francis’ Street’s Tivoli Theatre – photo by Dan Grennan.


After more than eight decades serving the Liberties as a culture hub, the Tivoli theatre and music venue faces an uncertain future.


Owner Anthony Byrne applied for planning permission to demolish the structure last December, 82 years and a day after the Tivoli’s first opening night.


The plans detail the theatre and surrounding structures in the car park, which will be levelled and an apartment hotel with a courtyard will take its place. The planned hotel will also have ground level retail units.


Local TD Bríd Smith said: “I would hate to see the Tivoli getting knocked down. I think it would be a real tragedy.”


“I think Dublin 8 is being destroyed . . . there are a huge amount of planning applications for student accommodation and apartments in the area and I think that Dublin 8 will be saturated.


“They need to step back and think carefully about how they plan the area, because they throw things in and destroy things at the rate of knots without thinking of the future.”


The Tivoli was built in 1934 and was originally a cinema that sat 1,700 people, making it the biggest in Dublin. The cinema continued business until 1964 when it became a bingo hall. The Tivoli eventually suffered a fire and lay derelict for several years.


In 1986 current owner Anthony Byrne bought the Tivoli. The former football international was a regular customer back in the cinema’s heyday.


Byrne then went about converting the cinema into a theatre and music venue – putting the theatre on the first floor with 560 seats and the music venue on the ground floor with room for 1,000 people.


The much-loved theatre hosted the Cheerios Pantomime for years and Brendan Gleeson starred in the play that featured on the theatre’s opening night called ‘Bouncers’.


“I would say they haven’t given the area a chance of a decent plan to settle in,” Bríd Smith said. “They’d rather give an opportunity for developers to slap up a load of buildings, and that’s not the right way to deal with the most historic parts of our city.”


In recent times the theatre has seen fewer productions. However the music venue now called District 8 is very much alive.


District 8 is the largest venue dedicated to dance and electronic music in Dublin and regularly hosts top international DJs such as Alan Fitzpatrick, Huxley, Andre from Paris, and many more.


DJ Andrew Sharkey said: “It’s the owner’s choice and whatever he feels is the right thing to do that’s fine, because that music (electro and dance) is massive to me it’s very sad to see. Especially considering the Hangar (another dance music venue) on St Andrew’s Lane is also planning to close to be turned into apartments.”


“Places like District 8 are frowned upon as it’s known for its drug culture, but that’s an outsider’s perspective to District 8. Drugs are found in every pub and nightclub in Ireland, I find it hilarious to judge a music genre in that frame of mind!


“I drive up to District 8 on a regular basis to see the best acts from across the world. It’s a magic place to spend your weekend as the energy inside is second to none.


“I have had some of my favourite nights there, no violence, no rows, just everyone listening to music!”


He added: “It’s nice to see some venues opening in Dublin recently but I have been listening to dance music for four or five years and District 8 is the best venue in Dublin because every night is unforgettable. I would love to see the owners of District 8 open a new venue.”


An apartment hotel is essentially the same as a hotel except an apartment is rented instead of a hotel room. The apartment hotel tends to host tourists looking to explore nightlife.


Local councillor Tina McVeigh said: “It’s obviously important to cater to tourists but there is an existing community of residents there who don’t want the noise and hassle that comes with an apartment hotel”.


Tina went on to say “it (the proposed apartment hotel) brings a very transient nature to the area and nobody can be held to account if there are issues with noise late at night.


“There is huge over-crowding within the inner city communities and we need more housing to alleviate it.


“It is not the right development for Francis Street . . . we are losing a cultural amenity. It would be nice to see a development that could incorporate some aspect of culture as well as housing”.  
The decision on the Tivoli is due to be made in late March or in early April. Whichever way it goes will have a big impact on both music lovers and local residents.

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